NEW DIGS: Challenger drivers says the clearly marked entrances to various service bays make navigating the yard easier.
Photo by Ingrid Phaneuf
CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – It’s not like Challenger Motor Freight president and CEO Dan Einwechter doesn’t have enough reason to be proud.
After all, 30 years after starting his own one-person, one-truck operation, he’s grown his company into a fleet of 1,300 trucks and 3,000 trailers.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s now moved most of his Ontario operations to a state of the art multi-million dollar facility, with two 5,000 plus square foot facilities, a refueling and inspection station, security at the gate and across the yard, and parking room for 385 trucks and 750 trailers.
Obviously Einwechter is building his business with a mind to the future.
And he admits as much during a tour he gives to Truck News in mid-July, just 10 days before he and his office staff plan to make the move from their old digs just minutes away in Cambridge.
Compared to their old yard, the new one is much, much nicer.
“I like it,” says Terry Lee, a Challenger Motor Freight driver for eight years now. Terry has just pulled in to the new facility for the first time and already he’s impressed.
“I like the fact there’s somewhere to park the trailer, and I don’t have to block in another one,” he says.
Terry says he also appreciates the large print signs indicating all the areas a driver needs to go to, like refueling and maintenance, which are clearly visible from the gated entrance.
He’s also looking forward to the new yard management system, soon to be installed, which will tell automatically tell him where to go with his tractor and trailer when he enters at the gate.
“At first we’ll be using a guard 24/7, who’ll punch in the tractor and trailer numbers and tell the driver where to drop the trailer and then where to take the tractor,” says IT director Eveline Gaedy.
“The trailer will have an assigned spot – which will depend on whether it’s loaded and whether it’s carrying high security goods, and then if work needs to be done on it, a shunt will receive a message that it’s arrived and to go and pick it up for repairs.”
Once the driver enters the yard, he or she will drive into a refueling/inspection station, where mechanics will check out the undercarriage of both the tractor and the trailer and recommend repairs as necessary, all while the driver fuels up.
The tractor and trailer will also automatically be checked for wheel alignment and tire pads will also check microchip tires for inflation and pressure.
Then it’s time for the driver to visit the refueling station’s portable sanitary pump out, park his or her rig, and head off to the driver’s lounge, conveniently located next to dispatch, to take a shower, watch TV, take a nap in one of four rooms with bunks, or simply pick up his or her orders for the next trip.
The drivers lounge is located in the same building that Dan Einwechter’s office is – with three stories of glass paneling, mature trees planted outside and several skylights.
“Drivers have the run of the building,” says Einwechter, even though there will be areas that are sectioned off for different uses.
On the ground floor, out front, there’s a three storey glassed reception with a view of the sun and the trees and the sky above. The entrance for drivers in the back is cozier, with dispatch, operations and access to the driver’s lounge, bunks, cafeteria, outdoor patio, training area, driving simulator and cafeteria.
On the second floor, there are open concept offices. On the third floor, more offices, the board room, a kitchenette and Einwechter’s corner office, not as huge as you’d think, overlooking the yard, the entrance and the maintenance and refueling and inspection facilities. The main office building is approximately 56,000 square feet in total.
Back in the yard, Einwechter tells how the maintenance building is ventilated centrally, so as to avoid using overhead hoods (there’s a sensor that tells the ventilation system when to suck in fresh air from outside) and how the wide open spaces (with enough room for short and long term truck and trailer bays, as well as a parts room, two tires bays, body shop and paint booth) will be heated with heat radiating floors burning waste oil that runs off during servicing, as well as two natural gas heaters for extreme cold.
So after spending what could be estimated at between $15 to $30 million on the new place, has Einwechter got big plans for the future?
“We plan to be capable of growing up to 15 per cent per year, but that’s only if the market will allow it,” says the consummate businessman.
In other words, he’s going to do his part to keep demand for his services high.
“This new facility is all about speed, efficiency and safety,” says Einwechter as the tour comes to an end.
“It’s funny, when my friends saw the first 12 acres I bought on Queen St. in Cambridge, they said ‘Holy s—, you’ve lost it. You’re never going to fill this place up.'”
So 13,000 trucks and 3,000 trailers later, and with terminals in Montreal and Vancouver as well as his new digs in Cambridge, did Einwechter call up those old friends up to tell them they were wrong?
“Nope I didn’t need to,” he says, with a laugh. “It’s become fairly evident.”